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Although he has over 60 patents to his credit, Jack Kilby would justly be
considered one of the greatest electrical engineers of all time for one
invention: the monolithic integrated circuit, or microchip (patent #3,138,743).
The microchip made microprocessors possible, and therefore allowed high-speed
computing and communications systems to become efficient, convenient, affordable,
Some time after earning a BSEE at the University of Illinois (1947) and an MSEE
at the University of Wisconsin (1950), Kilby took a research position with Texas
Instruments, Inc., in Dallas, Texas (1958). Within a year, Kilby had conceived
and created what no engineer had thought possible: a small, self-contained,
"monolithic" integrated circuit, in a single piece of semiconductor material
about the size of a fingernail. At the first professional presentation of his
invention, the IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) Show of 1959, Kilby's colleagues were both astonished and
overjoyed---and the "fourth generation" of computers was born.
Kilby went on to develop the first industrial, commercial, and military
applications for his integrated circuits---including the first pocket calculator
(the "Pocketronic") and computer that used them. By the mid-1970s, the computing
industry was inconceivable without the microchip, which forms the basis of modern
microelectronics: without it, no personal computer, fax machine, cellular phone,
satellite television, or indeed any other computer or mass communication system
as we know it would exist.
An independent inventor and consultant since 1970, Kilby has used his own success
to promote other engineers and inventors---most notably by establishing the Kilby
Awards Foundation--- which annually honors individuals outstanding in science,
technology, and education. Jack Kilby is admired as much for his generosity as
he is for his genius.